Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Using Unexpected Connections to Generate Ideas

Week of November 6—Strategies for Finding Ideas for Writing
Tuesday, November 8—Using Unexpected Connections to Generate Ideas


Chickens in a talent show who have to deal with their biggest foes—a bunch of smart-mouthed ducks. A boy who helps his best friend (an old woman) overcome her biggest nemesis—a fading memory. A gang of animals who help a zoo keeper who has taken a sick day. These unexpected connections have made three great picture books: Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer and Dan Santat, Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas, and A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead.

A combination of unexpected elements can create a unique story. Today I’ll show you one way to “force” unexpected combinations and produce an idea for a story. Begin by looking at the chart below.

Main Character
(Protagonist)
Setting, Situation, or Problem
Nemesis
(Antagonist)
Boy
First day of school
Bully
Girl
Dance recital
Ninja
Dog
Baseball game
Wrestler
Octopus
Grandma’s house
Big sister
Substitute teacher
Picture Day
Tattling sibling
Grandmother
Summer Camp
Big bad wolf
Doctor
Field trip
Scary sounds
Bully
Fishing
Substitute teacher
Cowboy
Talent Show
Shark
Duck
Homework
Inability to do something
Dad
Sailing
Feelings
Mom
At the beach
Insecurity
Big brother
4th of July
Weather
Younger sister
Concert
Dinosaur
Alien
Halloween
MC’s biggest rival
Talking tree
In the principal’s office
Witch
Princess
At the library
Dragon
Caveman
Castle
MC’s biggest fear
Witch
Outer space
Baby
Baby
Under the ocean
Cow
Momma bear
Rodeo
Sorcerer
Ghost
Foreign country
Alien
Penguin
Jungle
Wicked stepmother
President
Prehistoric times
Huge dog
Cat
Haunted house
Mangy cat
Football player
UFO
Warlock
Fairy Godmother
Stadium or arena
Spy

















NOTE: You can add to the chart (or even create your own).

Make an Unexpected Connection
To use the chart to create an unexpected connection . . .
1.      Randomly choose one item from each column. For instance:

Witch—Concert—Tattling Sibling

2.      Squeeze the ideas you choose together to form a statement that describes the story you will write. For instance:

This is the story of Matilda the Witch who more than anything wants to play the flute in the school fall concert, but her tattling sister keeps getting in Matilda in trouble until Matilda finds the power music has over people, witches, and even tattling little sisters.

3.      Write the story for your newly-found connection.

Warnings!
1.      Don’t be afraid of strange connections. The stranger the better, and the more unique. Try it. Push the limits.
2.      Not every connection will end up being a story. But every attempt to force connections will get you closer to a new, fresh, unique story.
3.      Keep forcing those unexpected combinations in your writing. This is not just a one-time experience or exercise.

7 comments:

thepatientdreamer.com said...

whoa! Another great idea, love it!
I'm pinching these lists, so I can have them in the front of my PiBoldMo folder. Thanks again Rob.

covetcat said...

This is a great concept! I'm going to try printing a chart, cutting the concepts into separate strips of paper, then drawing one slip from each of the three 'hats.'

Rob Sanders said...

THANKS! ENJOY! Go forth and ideate!

Penny K said...

You're the bomb for doing this! Your blog is awesome! This great! Wow! Etc....
I'm a PiBoIdMo first timer and I'm having a blast!
Thank you for taking the time to offer inspiration.

Romelle said...

Great idea generator, Rob! I also liked your example of the Flute-playing witch. I'd love to see you turn it into a PB and share it with YBR for crit! Sounds like a winner.

Rob Sanders said...

Glad you're connecting with the ideas about oonnecting! :-)

Janet, said...

I just got a great idea from your above suggestions!